Only sure thing, Maryland is home Where?Drawing the lines for towns isn't a clear proposition.

March 23, 1996|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Where we live is simple. It's either one place or the other.

1. In the city. (That's that.)

2. In the county. ("Where in the county?")

Take Timonium or is it Lutherville? When in doubt, use a slash: Timonium/Lutherville. Some say York/Belvedere, while others say, be serious, it's Govans. The slash is very big in Baltimore County.

Then, there's Cockeysville. But others would say Hunt Valley; it does sound more sporting and countrified than Cockeysville, which sounds, well, you know (See: Dickeyville). The Monkton Post Office is, quite logically, in Hereford. Monkton sounds frou-frou; Hereford sounds moo-moo.

Stoneleigh or Rodgers Forge? Columbia or Clarksville? Thank God there's still a Clarksville Post Office that draws the line and preserves this community's identity in Howard County. Back in Baltimore County, folks live in Parkville, which could be considered Towson which is all over the dang map.

"Towson is a great, formless blob," says John McGrain, who presides over matters of historic sites and boundaries. At the county's Planning Office, he and his colleagues handle the usual calls from people amused and stumped by Baltimore County's blobbiness. "It's like anywhere you live in the county it's a state of mind."

Maryland, minus its cities, is a master plan of sprawling suburban sprawl with no townships or boroughs being fruitful and making boundaries. No little governments to enforce territories. No dotted lines on tax maps to demarcate all these storied communities.

People can't say for sure where they live in the counties. (For those who aren't sure what county they live in, we can't deal with that right now.)

Although the confusion occurs throughout Maryland, northern Baltimore County is especially congested with ambiguity. Kathy Schlabach is a community planner for Hunt Valley/Timonium, although she doesn't know the boundaries for the community/community. She's also fuzzy on where Timonium begins or ends. Towson, too.

"It's not like there are any set boundaries," she says. "It's kind of open to interpretation."

to be in Hunt Valley."

Sure, why not. Who cares that Hunt Valley is known mainly for its mall and spicy air from the McCormick plant? The area has a cool name. "Valley" sounds bucolic and down-home. "Hunt" obviously implies hunting, which there is little or none of in Hunt Valley. The name sounds respectable, so Hunt Valley it is.

That's one of the charms of county living in Maryland. Choose your own address. "You can join a more distinguished town," Mr. McGrain says, "if your neighbors let you get away with it."

Image can be everything in homesteading. Down south, what's the boundary between Brooklyn Park and Olde Brooklyn Park? Shipley's Choice or Severna Park? There are people who live on private Gibson Island, and people who live on the road to Gibson Island. No one has to know the difference.

Timonium (Tm on the periodic table of chemical elements) is home to the State Fairgrounds, which is moo-moo in its own right. And this suits some residents fine, but others prefer to claim Lutherville as their address. It has a quaint, historic district and so is clearly marked! Of course, it's non-historic Lutherville (aka non-historic Timonium) that no one can seem to define.

Does anyone know what's the up or down side of Upperco? The difference between Linthicum and Ferndale? Knettishall and Loch Raven Village?

"Even some of the neighbors don't know where the boundaries are," says Wayne Skinner, who lives (he thinks) in Loch Raven Village. "I consider myself closer to Towson, but I have a Parkville zip code."

He's on the neighborhood association board for Loch Raven Village, where villagers are divided by two zip codes. And when friends look Mr. Skinner up in the phone book, they find a Parkville number, which confuses them, since he doesn't live in Parkville or Towson but in Loch Raven Village (he thinks).

"Something you got to live with," says the 41-year-old, Parkville/Towson/Loch Raven Village resident.

Wonder what his mail says.

"Baltimore."

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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